Southampton were left to rue not taking advantage of a dominant first-half performance as their unbeaten run was ended with a 2-1 defeat at Norwich City.
Saints had come into the match against the Premier League’s bottom club four unbeaten, and they enjoyed a dream start as Ché Adams fired them in front a little over three minutes in.
Despite Teemu Pukki quickly equalising, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side were well on top for 45 minutes, heading into half time having registered 12 shots to Norwich’s one, while bossing possession with 66 per cent of the ball.
But they were unable to translate that into any further goals, and they paid the price in the second half, as the hosts gained the upper hand and ultimately found the decisive goal through a late Grant Hanley header.
It was incredibly frustrating for Saints, who had arrived in East Anglia in good form, looking to make it five unbeaten in the league and chasing a fourth win in that spell.
Norwich, though, were aiming to make it back-to-back victories in what was the first match in charge for new manager Dean Smith – two weeks on from having faced Southampton as Aston Villa manager.
There was one change for Saints from the side that had beaten Smith’s previous team ahead of the international break, as Ibrahima Diallo replaced Stuart Armstrong, who missed out on the matchday squad after picking up a knock, with Diallo starting in a more unfamiliar advanced midfield role.
There was also no place in the group for Nathan Redmond against his former club, after the forward celebrated the birth of his son this week.
Just like it was against Smith’s Villa team a fortnight ago, it was a perfect start here for Saints too, as they again took less than four minutes to go in front.
Adam Armstrong was provider this time, flicking a loose ball from about 25 yards out into the left side of the area, with Adams getting to it in between centre-back Hanley and full-back Max Aarons. Adams, fresh from scoring twice for Scotland last week, muscled the pair away from the ball, turned towards goal and rolled a precise right-footed shot past Tim Krul and just inside the far post.
However, Saints’ lead would last a mere three minutes, as Norwich swiftly equalised.
It came after Kyle Walker-Peters was dispossessed down the left inside the Norwich half, with the Saints full-back having a strong appeal for a foul from Milot Rashica dismissed by referee Martin Atkinson. That allowed the Canaries to break down their right, ending with the over-lapping Aarons delivering a cross to the near post, where Pukki had found space, and the striker nodded a firm downward header past Alex McCarthy at the near post.
The goal didn’t change the control Saints were exerting on the game, though, and they continued to press and probe, creating a host of half-chances and promising moments, with Mohamed Elyounoussi seeing one effort well blocked and another go wide, James Ward-Prowse hitting a shot straight at Krul, and Armstrong seeing another deflected wide.
The game wore past the half-hour mark without the visitors having been able to make that pressure pay, but it continued to be one-way traffic, with Mohammed Salisu’s fierce strike from distance being saved by the well-positioned Krul.
The Norwich keeper was again called into action two minutes before half-time, as Saints almost regained the lead. Hanley was loose with possession on halfway and had the ball swiped off him by Diallo, who raced forward and slipped a pass into the run of Adams down the inside-left channel. Adams cut onto his right foot 18 yards out and sent a low shot towards the near bottom corner, but Krul did well to dive down to his right and tip it wide.
Norwich, in need of a way of changing the flow of the game, made one change at the break, as Todd Cantwell was taken off and replaced by Josh Sargent.
They certainly had more forward impetus about them as the match restarted, and they worked a big opening on 53 minutes, as Mathias Normann played a pass into the feet of Rashica just outside the box, with Rashica taking a superb touch to open up a clear look at goal, only to fire straight at McCarthy.
Hasenhüttl responded to Norwich’s spell of pressure by introducing Armando Broja on 57 minutes, with Elyounoussi the one to make way.
Soon after, he also sent on Theo Walcott in place of Adams, with the hosts continuing to look the more threatening.
Still, though, Saints couldn’t get anything going in the final third, reaching the midway point of the second half without having registered a shot in it – in complete contrast to the dozen they managed in the first 45 minutes.
It wasn’t until the 70th minute that they were able to threaten Krul’s goal again, as Oriol Romeu worked room outside the box, only to see his strike deflected wide for a corner, which came to nothing.
That was about the last action Romeu would see, as he was substituted a few minutes later for Lyanco, as Hasenhüttl opted for a change of shape, to three centre-backs, in the game’s closing stages.
It was still Norwich looking the likelier to break the deadlock, and McCarthy had to save well at his near post from a well-struck Pukki shot on 76 minutes to keep the scores level.
But the Saints keeper was beaten two minutes later, as the hosts’ persistence finally paid off. It was a simple goal, too, as Billy Gilmour delivered a corner to the back post, where Hanley was able to rise highest and bounce a header past McCarthy and into the top corner.
Saints did carve out one glorious chance to equalise, as Ward-Prowse's delivery from deep on the right in added time found Walcott unmarked ten yards out, but the substitute bounced his header inches wide of the post, as the full-time whistle brought celebrations for the home side.